BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — The stage was set for a clash between No. 5 Michigan (19-1, 8-1 Big Ten) and Indiana (12-8, 3-6 Big Ten) inside Assembly Hall, one of the Big Ten?s most iconic venues. The game started, then stopped, a shot clock error led to a seven-minute stoppage just seven seconds into the game. Once play resumed, business picked up. Michigan opened the game on a 17-0 run and came away with its sixth straight win over Indiana and second in a row at Assembly Hall (first time Michigan has won back-to-back games in Bloomington since 1985-86) with a 69-46 victory Friday night, the Wolverines biggest win at Assembly Hall in program history.
The 17-0 run to open the game is the clear attention grabber, but Michigan?s offensive struggles still shone through in the first twenty minutes. After a 7 for 10 start from the floor, Michigan finished the first half going 6 for 19 (Wolverines were 13 for 29 in the first half.) The shot selection wasn?t necessarily bad, but the shots were not falling as Indiana slowly tried to work its way back into the game. The Hoosiers did finish the first half outscoring the Wolverines 18-16 after that initial run. The most telling statistic from the first half is that Michigan scored 17 points on its first nine possessions, the Wolverines only scored 16 on their next 25 possessions.
For the second game in a row, Ignas Brazdeikis (20 points, 7 rebounds) was the straw that stirred Michigan?s offensive drink. He opened the scoring on the night with a three-pointer and helped set the tone during the Wolverines blitzing of the Hoosiers early. Iggy?s five of seven shooting in the first half helped his team keep its sizable advantage. The second half, Brazdeikis proved even more critical, as Indiana used a 9-5 run to draw to within nine points, a crowd-silencing three from Brazdeikis, and an ensuing money sign celebration calmed a Hoosier crowd that was working itself into a fervor.
To put the game away, similar to Tuesday, Michigan again relied on its closer, Charles Matthews. After Brazdeikis hit the three to put Michigan up 41-29, Matthews (10 points, 11 rebounds) went on a personal 7 point run that involved two made free throws, a three, and a long two to put Michigan up 48-32. From there, the game was mostly in hand for the Wolverines as they looked to bleed the clock and get out of Assembly Hall with just their third win in Bloomington since 2009.
Friday?s game wasn?t perfect, but the final score will be a win Michigan can hang its collective hat on. Winning in Assembly Hall is a tall order against any Indiana team (as Beilein?s 2009 team, which trailed by 20 and needed overtime to beat a Hoosier squad that went 6-25, can attest.) The vibe around Michigan?s facility and locker room in Ann Arbor is that the team is doing its best to survive and advance as the offense works out the kinks that are slowing it down. While there were plenty of stretches Friday night where the offense struggled shooting the ball, the Wolverines earned a wire-to-wire win and grabbed their second largest margin of victory on the season (Michigan beat Chatanooga by 28.) The Wolverines now turn their attention to another big week with a home game against Ohio State, which has lost five in a row (Buckeyes play at Nebraska Saturday afternoon) then travel to Iowa. Michigan has some issues to fix but finding the solutions to problems is far easier when a team is winning instead of losing. The Wolverines have recovered from the Wisconsin loss with two wins, and will look to carry that momentum into Ohio State and beyond.